and privateers, scalawags and socialites have walked the
wharfs of Newport, and few stretches of waterfront on Aquidneck Island
have been witness to as much history as that of Long Wharf.
On the 19th day of July in 1723 twenty six men convicted of piracy were
hung at Gravelly Point at the west end of the wharf. The London Board
of Trade and the British government pressured local officials to
curtail those particular unorthodox styles of maritime commerce that
were having a negative impact on English tax coffers. This rather
exuberant use of the rope did not sit well with the locals. The
citizens of Newport had for many years provided safe haven for pirates
and any number of unconventional sorts that were spurned in the more
conservative New England settings. In fact this open-minded attitude
that was prevalent throughout the colony earned it the nickname “Rogues
Eleven years before the first muskets were fired at Lexington and
Concord the inhabitants of Rhode Island had taken up arms against the
Crown. On July 9th, 1764 citizens from Newport launched an attack from
Long Wharf on the British installation at Goat Island. Upon seizing the
fort they turned the guns on the Royal Navy frigate Squirrel. The
ensuing cannonade might just have been the unofficial opening salvo of
the American Revolution.
|LONG WHARF IN THE 19th CENTURY
months after King George was officially put on notice about
America’s intent to part company the British fleet arrived in
Narragansett Bay. From December of 1776 until October of 1779 Newport
suffered English occupation. Nine months after His Majesty’s troops had
abandoned Rhode Island a different cut of boots were scraping the
planks of Long Wharf. In July of 1780 the French and the Comte de
Rochambeau had arrived. On the 6th of March of the following spring
Rochambeau’s troops would stand three deep along the wharf waiting to
be reviewed by General George Washington, who would come ashore in
Newport in order to make final preparations for the joint naval and
land operations against the British forces in the south. And in the
summer of 1790 Washington would once more disembark at Long Wharf; but
this time in the capacity of president of the new nation. Accompanied
by Thomas Jefferson, he came to Rhode Island to acknowledge and
celebrate the state’s entrance into the union and its ratification of
an excellent article on George
Washington's visit to Rhode Island in August of 1790 after that
cantankerous state finally consented to join the union
please click here.
the 19th century Long Wharf received the gentry of the Gilded
Age. The Morgans, Vanderbilts and Astors were just a few of the names
of American aristocracy that appeared on Newport’s social registry.
THE BAR AT CELTICA
HOUSE IN NEWPORT
NAVY FILE PHOTO
good portion of the twentieth century the United States Navy
drove the local economy. By the middle of the Second World War over
150,000 civilian and military personnel were stationed at naval
installations on Aquidneck Island and Narragansett Bay. Among these
young sailors and aviators were three future presidents: John F.
Kennedy, Richard M. Nixon and George H. W. Bush. If by chance they were
able to break away from the rigors of training they probably joined
their fellow officers and crewmen at “LEO'S FIRST AND LAST STOP,” a
legendary rough and tumble establishment located at the end of Long
Wharf. The joint got its name from the fact that it was the first stop
for any sailor arriving in Newport by train, and the last stop before
they boarded launches bound for their ships anchored in the bay.
PT BOATS IN NARRAGANSETT BAY
the departure of the Cruiser - Destroyer Force of the U.S.
Atlantic Fleet in 1973, the naval presence in Newport was greatly
diminished. In order to revive its failing economy the city focused on
promoting tourism. Today most of Long Wharf has been redeveloped in
favor of luxury resorts and high end marinas. There a few traces of its
storied past left to indicate the importance of this pathway through
history. Leo’s is long gone; but there is CELTICA.
wife and I recently discovered this handsome Irish tavern while
hoofing it across the wharf, after getting off the ferry from
Providence. The first thing that caught my eye was the murals that
adorn the side and rear of the building. Here on these walls of what
was previously the NARRAGANSETT CAFE, the heart and soul of this
location have been wonderfully rendered and captured by local artist
Patricia Conti. The interior of Celtica, which is the result of the
painstaking handiwork of the proprietor Mark Brennan, is equally
|STRIKING MURALS BY LOCAL ARTIST, PATRICIA
is one of those rare moments when I, who always favors the high
ground, am torn between a good bar stool and a comfy leather armchair.
But my wife and I opt to settle in at the end of the rail with some
afternoon attendees and our host Jenni B.
what was supposed to be just me poking my head in the door for a quick
inspection turns into two hours of local lore and great conversation.
At some point I grab another pint of Newport
Storm Hurricane Amber Ale
and head toward a cozy corner by the window. A gentle breeze blows in
from the bay as I watch the moored pleasure boats dance on the water. A
tall ship in the distance stirs thoughts about the presidents and
privateers, and the rogues and royalty that have passed this way!
|For an APHR
article about another Rhode Island public house, THE WHITEHORSE
TAVERN which is steeped in the legacy and history of our nation's
birth please click - here.